Thursday, January 3, 2008

The novelization is forthcoming

A couple of months ago, I started this blog knowing that I had an absolute gold mine of post ideas sitting right here in the same room with me in the form of my Illustrious Co-Worker, or whatever we finally decide to call her. I actually toyed with the idea of creating a separate blog just to chronicle the stunning redneck ridiculousness that is her life and my reactions to it. I knew NaBloPoMo would be no problem due to the wealth of material she was inadvertently feeding me on a daily basis. For a while, that is exactly how it went. If you’re unfamiliar with her exploits, I refer you to some of my early posts: exhibits A, B, and C.

Then something happened: My slack-jawed amazement at the depths of her ignorance and the constant reinforcement of every comical white-trash stereotype that she seemed to so thoroughly exhibit slowly turned instead to slack-jawed amazement at her relative level of achievement and inexplicably well-adjusted temperament and outlook. Yes, she’s still the dumbest person I’ve ever met, but she may also be the kindest, and homegirl’s had a hard life. I’ll explain:

It’s a long story which has been related to me by ICW herself quite matter-of-factly over the course of the four months we’ve worked together. In the interest of time and space, here’s the condensed version: Her parents are step siblings; Mom was a cocaine addict and Dad was a drunk. Due to Mom’s addiction, she had to live with Dad, and Dad would take her to the gas station every day and buy her the same ham sandwich and a beer because that was all he could afford (??). Child Services found out about the beer, so ICW had to go live with her mom’s mom, who was 400 pounds and bed-ridden, in a home that featured an outhouse. ICW’s uncle also lived there and sexually abused not only her but her cousins and his own bed-ridden mother as well. ICW was the one who finally, around the age of 12 or so, told someone about the abuse and had to testify in a lengthy trial against her uncle, at which time the other abuses were discovered, including the cousins, one of which was two years old. At some point in all this she also lived in the same group home that her mom grew up in, the same state-run facility that had kicked her mom out at the age of 16 for getting pregnant by a 32-year-old (ICW’s father).

At the age of 14, with no place to go, she was taken in by her future husband’s family, which her mother-in-law now holds over her in her efforts to keep ICW from divorcing said husband. The husband who once spent six days in jail after breaking a glass picture frame on her face. The husband who hasn’t held a job in three years. The husband who doesn’t know about ICW’s second savings account because she doesn’t trust him.

And yet: She hands out candy to the homeless on Halloween. She’s volunteered at a battered women’s shelter and a soup kitchen. She bought me a pair of warm gloves for Christmas because I had mentioned just once that I was thinking of getting a new pair. But here’s the kicker:

Almost every day for the four months that we’ve worked in the same room together, she makes a phone call and asks for either "Jesse" or "the meat department." She talks to Jesse for a few minutes, finds out how he’s doing and asks if he needs anything. It’s usually a short conversation. I just figured she was cheating on her no-good husband with a butcher named Jesse.

Turns out, and she didn’t even mention this until a month ago, Jesse is a mentally retarded man who she new as a child and who lived with her before she got married. He lives with his parents now, who are extremely poor and too sick to work, about two hours from here. None of them can take care of themselves, so ICW found Jesse a job cutting meat at a very understanding grocery store. Every Wednesday after work, she drives the two hours each way to pick up his pay check and pay the family’s bills.

In the last few months, ICW, or maybe we should start referring to her as My Freakin’ Hero, has lost 23 pounds in an effort to get back to a healthy weight and kicked her husband out (hopefully for the last time) on New Year’s Day. All this while earning $10 an hour and supporting two people and an ever-changing menagerie of dogs. And she is absolutely as dumb as a brick, which just may have served her well through the difficult times, but that is far from the most interesting thing about her.

So you see why, although her stupidity and the resulting things she does and says are still incredibly amusing to me, I just have too much respect for her to mock her to the degree that I once aspired to. The funny thing is, I don’t think she’s even particularly aware that she’s defying her horrific childhood or leading the kind of life that most people would find inspiring. She’s just gettin’ along.

9 comments:

Courtney said...

It's so sad. I kind of want to adopt her, even though she's older than me. Seriously.

Meaghan said...

I started out reading this thinking, "man, anytime I think my life is bad, I'll refer back to this post." Now I'm thinking I'll read this for inspiration. You just never know what people have been through. And wait, is that a bit of humility I hear in the tone of this post? Surely not from Mickey! ;)

Chris said...

That is truly incredible. After the childhood she had, this woman should be cooking meth in her trailer where she lives with her four kids by four different dads.

I'd be impressed if she were just an average functioning member of society, but the fact that she herself is functioning and helping her challenged childhood friend to survive... geez.

Anonymous said...

does this mean that you will have to do back ground checks on people that come into your life before you go posting away about your incounter with them to save you from humility again in the future?
by the way, what an amazing person you work with and whom you made fun of for how long!?

hightower

dailytannenbaum.com said...

Wow, that was pretty gripping. I can't believe that there are people who make it through those situations without being completely and utterly messed up for life. Also, I hate when I feel guilty about making fun of dumb people.

Jacob said...

I've started to realize that intelligence and worldliness are overrated. Sure the world needs people like me and some of you, but it's not like you can really argue that the world is any worse off because of people like her. In fact, it's probably gotten more good out of her than it ever has out of me.

Now, many of the people who've surrounded her in her life is an entirely different story. I also bet if her situation had been discovered earlier and she'd ended up in a home like most of ours with educated, stable adoptive parents you wouldn't have had anything to make fun of except maybe the weight problem and some cute puppy and kitty pictures at her cubicle.

nancypearlwannabe said...

Aww. Now I'm totally bummed out I can't laugh at her posts anymore. In fact, I feel bad for even having laughed before I knew about her hard knocks life. Way to ruin it, Mickey.

Oh, and she is pretty inspiring.

Allie said...

Wow. That's awesome. I love it when people are so surprising. And it's always good to hear about people out there who are so incredibly kind.

Julie said...

You should submit her name and story to Oprah. They would give her a personal coach or new car or something that could help ease your guilt. And if anyone deserves a new car or personal coach, it's ICW.